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Jihad in contemporary usage is a contested term, often translated in quite different ways as either an Islamic “holy war” conducted against any “infidel” broadly conceived of as a “non-Muslim,” or as a peaceful striving against the self as a form of spiritual reformation toward personal and communal peace in opposition to more bellicose motives. Themes of self-sacrifice, or martyrdom in the path of God, are often associated with these interpretations. These interpretations are narrow dimensions of the full etymological and historical signification of the word, derived from the Arabic trilateral root j-h-d, signifying a striving toward a specific objective. The semantic field of the root indicates its broader usages within Arabic social, political, and legal discourse. Terms such as ijtihād (the work of ...

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